Things on the Internet are not as private as we want them to be. For most of us, our entire online communication resides on someone else’s server. And in most cases, it’s Google’s servers we rely on. But more and more users are looking for alternatives. Ways to handle their email without storing it in some huge company’s remote server. For those users, Mailbird is a great option.
Mailbird is an email client for Windows with IMAP support for almost all email providers. According to Mailbird’s website, they never scan your emails and never store them on their servers. While we all know that nothing is completely private these days, Mailbird, together with the provider of your choice, could be a great way to avoid Google’s watchful eyes. Of course, it’s also a great client for Gmail users who want to take their correspondence away from the browser.
Mailbird comes in three version: Lite, Pro and Business. At the moment, there’s not much of a difference between the Lite and Pro versions, but soon the Lite (free) version will see the addition of ads, and the Pro version will get some new features, not available on Lite. Mailbird Pro currently costs $9 per year at pre-order, and will costs $12/year after the version’s full launch. But you now have a chance to get a whole year for free! Read the review to find out what Mailbird is all about, and join the giveaway to win one of 100 free 1-year Mailbird Pro plans!
Setting Up Mailbird
Having tried several email clients before, I expected to spend at least a few minutes setting things up. Mailbird surprised me. Upon first launch, it asked me to enter my name, email address, and password. It did not ask me to choose a provider, or specify anything else. I was skeptical, but after mere seconds, Mailbird identified my Google Apps account, and set up all the right setting for me. You can, of course, edit those settings yourself if you need to.
With most providers, though, this is as complicated as it gets. Enter your credentials, hit enter, and watch as your mailbox gets populated by your emails, labels, mailboxes, etc.
What Can Mailbird Do?
On first glance, Mailbird is just like any other email client. The user interface has three columns: the left sidebar which can be expanded to show all of your labels, the list of emails in the mailbox, and the email preview pane. On the left sidebar, you can switch between viewing your inbox, your starred items, your drafts, your sent items, and your labels.
If you’ve performed a search using the search box on the top right, a search icon will also appear in the sidebar, letting you go back to this search at any time. The built-in search function is a simple one. All you can do is search for keywords, and Mailbird will find them in your emails.
Mailbird comes with plenty of keyboard shortcuts for keyboard lovers. While it does come with its own set of shortcuts, you can set it to use the same ones as Gmail, which will minimize your learning curve if you’re used to those. There’s almost nothing you can’t do using your keyboard. From email actions such as reply, forward, archive, etc., to opening a new compose window from any state, even when the program is minimized.
The only keyboard shortcuts missing from the collection are ones to mark an email as read or unread. Being very used to having those in Gmail, I really missed having them in Mailbird.
Just like Gmail, Mailbird comes with full conversation support. All threads are grouped in the same email, with a grey number specifying the number of emails in the thread. Emails in a thread are displayed from new to old, which may be a bit confusing at first, but does make sense.
Composing emails in Mailbird is a positive experience, and aside from only partial support for RTL languages, I couldn’t find any fault with it. Formatting options include font colors, highlights, 5 fonts to choose from, bullet and numbered lists, and pretty much anything else you’ve come to expect. Composing emails is done in a separate window, so it’s easy to go back and forth and look at other emails while composing. There’s also an auto-save feature, so your email is saved even if you close the window without saving or sending.
To attach files to an email, all you have to do is drag them into the compose window. You’ll also find your entire contact list already in Mailbird, so it’s easy to complete an address by starting to type to contact’s name.
When browsing your inbox, there are several ways to take care of incoming emails. You can go the usual way, browsing through using your mouse or keyboard, replying, archiving or deleting as you go. But with Mailbird, you can also hover over the contact’s thumbnail to view all the available actions without ever opening the email.
Speaking of contact thumbnails, these appeared for all other Google users automatically. You can also connect Mailbird to your Facebook account to make things ever more visual and colorful.
Options & Accounts
Mailbird doesn’t support multiple accounts at the moment, but the feature will be added soon to all versions, including Lite. What you can do, even right now, is create several identities from which to send your emails. Meaning, if you have several accounts, you can use Mailbird to send emails from all those accounts. You just can’t receive emails for all of them at the moment.
Setting up identities is easy. Click the Mailbird button, choose Options -> Identities, and add all your addresses. When you do that, you’ll be able to choose which address each email is sent from. There are even keyboard shortcuts for that.
From the options menu, you can also control such things as the keyboard shortcuts, where unread emails appear in your inbox, your labels’ colors, and more.
As is, Mailbird comes with a pretty nice set of features. It’s not super powerful, but it’s slick and intuitive, and includes almost any feature most users need. But like many Gmail users like adding extra features from Labs, so Mailbird users can add extra features using apps.
Some apps enhance Mailbird’s native search features, others enhance productivity by adding a calendar or to-do list, and yet others integrate popular services such as Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive and CloudMagic. There are even TechCrunch and Lifehacker apps that help you stay up to date with those blogs.
To access the apps, click the three dots icon on the left sidebar, and switch on any app you’re interested in. There aren’t a lot of them at the moment, but more are added all the time. If you’re up to it, you can even create your own app.
Should You Use Mailbird?
Mailbird is an excellent email client that will appeal to many types of users, from beginners to more expert ones. It’s flexible and easy to use, and yet packs almost any feature you may want. It’s a great alternative to the usual way you use email, and as the Lite version is currently ad-free, it’s a great opportunity to give it a try.
With the addition of Pro-only apps and Mailbird’s email analytics tool, the Pro version could definitely be worth a few dollars a year.
Of course, you can just be one of the lucky 100 readers to win a whole year of Mailbird Pro! Here’s how you can win.
How do I win a copy of Mailbird?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 22. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.
We are unable to publish the complete list of winners here, but if you were selected as a winner, congratulations! You would have received an email from email@example.com. If you require any assistance, please get in touch with Jackson Chung before December 8. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
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